So how do I get the information?
At first, I gathered most of it myself. I made hundreds of phone calls, combed through newspapers for restaurant ads, inquired in online newsgroups, asked friends. Wherever I went in my travels, I looked around for smokefree venues.
I was nervous about making cold calls, but almost no one was rude. People in the hospitality business are basically polite. They are, however, busy, often underpaid, and often English is not their first language, especially in restaurants. So I kept calls short and to the point.
Later, people began sending information, and links to their own sites.
It was hard to find venues to list in the beginning. In addition to there being fewer back then, there was an inability to recognize the business or consumer side of things. For example, I would find smokefree restaurants where the manager didn't know that people might really like to know about this. Or I would contact a bureaucrat working on smokefree legislation, or an academic who had spoken at a conference on the subject, and I would ask, do you know of any smokefree restaurants which deserve to be listed on the web site? I would get the e-mail equivalent of a blank stare. There seemed to be no understanding that consumers can exert pressure in their entertainment and dining choices.